With The Disaster Artist, James Franco chronicles the stranger-than-fiction production of The Room (2003), dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” by filmmaker and teacher Ross Morin, and its mysterious creator Tommy Wiseau.
Franco’s performance as Wiseau is an extreme, frightening, hair-tearingly bizarre and almost always hilarious feat of daring. While some might think it too wild and bonkers to take seriously, it’s been judged as spot-on by Wiseau himself, who must have a hide like a rhinoceros. Although if you’ve actually seen The Room (which has become a beloved audience-participation sub-Midnight-Movie like Rocky Horror), you’ll know that already.
Opening with a quick montage of heavyweights as they enthuse about The Room (with fans including Kristen Bell, Adam Scott, Kevin Smith and even J.J. Abrams), this then cuts to a San Francisco acting class headed by Jean Shelton (Melanie Griffith) back in 1998 where fairly dreadful would-be actor Greg Sestero (James’ little brother Dave Franco) struggles through a reading of Waiting For Godot. James’ Wiseau then appears from the shadows to do what might (or might not) be a chair-throwing, wall-climbing rant from A Streetcar Named Desire. Soon he and Greg are besties and bonding over pizza, Rebel Without A Cause and Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up.
Although Tommy is a self-created enigma (his accent, background and source of wealth remain a mystery to this day apparently) and appears to have semi-psychotic spells, he and Greg wind up moving into Tommy’s flat in Los Angeles and trying their luck as actors, which obviously doesn’t go well. Momentarily dispirited, Tommy hits upon the notion of making his own movie. The screenplay for The Room is hammered out, expensive equipment purchased and a set filled with puzzled personnel. They’re quite a bunch and notably include script supervisor Sandy (Seth Rogen), wardrobe girl Safoya (Charlene Yi) and bewildered co-stars Juliette (Ari Graynor), Philip (Josh Hutcherson), Carolyn (Jacki Weaver) and a surprise big star in a foul-mouthed bit.
Pain-stakingly recreating scenes from The Room (like the fan-fave highlight that inexplicably ends with “Oh, hi Mark!” and the excruciating “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” moment), Franco’s film also features all sorts of players and pals in funny bits, like Alison Brie as Greg’s girlfriend, Megan Mullally as his worried Mom, an uncredited Judd Apatow and even Sharon Stone with one line. But it’s mostly about the weird friendship between the two guys and the absurdly undaunted self-belief that Wiseau had in his inimitable masterwork.
If you don’t believe that Franco’s startling portrayal of the man himself could possibly be real then please wait until after the end credits and watch an amusing confrontation between the real Tommy and the fake Tommy.
Rated M. The Disaster Artist is in cinemas now.